Monday, November 19, 2012

Population Growth: Seven Billion and Counting... -- International STEM Project

Wait until the robots start cloning us...
As the world's population has ballooned in the past three centuries researchers wait for the other pen to drop. Currently sitting at a cool 7 billion (and counting), researchers believe (based on their models) that the world's population will top out at 9.2 billion. In this 21st Century Math Project students will analyze the same data as the experts and make their own predictions. Which model best projects the world in 2050? I guess at the class’s 38th year reunion you can find out.

Name: Seven Billion and Counting…
Suggested Grade Level: 9-12 (Basic Algebra II, Precalculus skills)
Math Concepts: Scatterplot, Creating, Using and Analyzing Regression Functions, Patterns, Evaluating Predictions
Interdisciplinary Connections: Social Studies, Global Studies, Population
Teaching Duration: 3-4 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $5 for a 20 Page PDF (2 assignments, 1 project with answer key) 

The Product: After a careful analysis of population data by continent, students will use their chosen mathematical model to predict how the world’s population will breakdown in the year 2050.  

An authentic task? You're teasing me
right? Where's my drill and kill?!
Will it ever end? Most statisticians believe we will taper off our growth. They are expecting a logistic function although to date our population is freakishly exponential. In this 21st Century Math Project, students will investigate population of the different world regions over history. Students will begin by simply trying to observe a pattern, move to lines of best fit and finally have the freedom to choose their own non-linear best fit functions. This dataset yields some interesting conclusions for prediction and discussion especially in regards to the limitations of linear modeling.

Students will use the skills of patterns, constructing pie graphs, regression functions for modeling and using their equations to make predictions. What makes a model strong? Students will explore this question. This lesson is designed to work with a class set of TI graphing calculators and would work with an Advanced Algebra 1 class, Algebra 2 or PreCalculus.

That's like a lot of people, ya feel me?
People should, like, stop making babies
and stuff.
The final project is a challenging, multi-faceted task which needs certain skills to be built. To compensate, two assignments were added which help introduce the topic and skills. Thus a student’s understanding of the mathematics concepts will grow with their familiarity the topic of population.

-- "Seven Billion and Counting" -- using patterns to determine the world in 2050 and constructing pie graphs to represent 1750. 

-- "Predictive Models (the long and short of them)" -- students use linear models for global data for two different intervals (1750-2000 and 1975-2010). Students then are asked to develop their own non-linear regression functions.

Which all leads to the Mama…
This will shape the world for
generations to come. What can we do
to take action now?

-- "The World in 2050" -- students will compare the results of their 4 different results, use them to draw conclusion about modeling in general and will construct a pie graph representing the world in 2050.

I wrote this assignment relatively recently so I have only used it one time, but students were honestly intrigued by the study and the challenge of comparing their models to the experts. Others were interested in the observations that can be made in the population data by continent which certainly can generate some discussion.

EXTENSION: Population is a global issue with serious implications in terms of sustainability, natural resources and poverty. Using their models, students could create PSAs and other Presentations that can be viewed in the community.  

Will this blog go on forever? Will it live in the cloud forever? Are you someone from the year 2341, searching through Google’s cache? Did you find my laptop? If you found my laptop, there’s a really weird short with the battery that cases the screen to flicker every now and again. 21st Century Math Projects might live forever, but one day I may have to start a new company… 22nd Century Math Projects. 

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